Northern lights and Helsinki attract Chinese tourists to Finland

The number of Chinese tourists in Finland is expected to triple by 2030.

Idyllic, beautiful, wonderland. These are words often used by Chinese tourists to describe Finland on tourism websites back home. Seen as an exotic country in the north, Finland attracts plenty of interest from China. In the Chinese search engine Baidu, for instance, Finland is the second most searched Nordic country, preceded only by Iceland.

“On Chinese online forums, the discussion on Finland revolves around the Santa Claus Village and travel costs. Many people also ask about where in the world and in which country Finland is located,” Early-Stage Researcher XinXin Guo from the University of Eastern Finland says.

Northern lights attract Chinese tourists to Finland. Photo: Lapland Material Bank

His current research focuses on the country image of Finland on Chinese websites dedicated to tourism.

“At the moment, the majority of Chinese tourists choose Helsinki, the country's capital, or Rovaniemi in the Finnish Lapland, as their destination. Only few people are aware of the opportunities available in, for example, the Finnish Lakeland.”

According to Guo, however, the Finnish Lakeland has plenty of potential to evolve into an attractive destination, one on a par with Lapland and Helsinki.

“Finland’s official travel site, VisitFinland, has done an excellent job at promoting Finland as a tourism destination across the world. Next, they could invest in promoting the Finnish Lakeland as well as Finland as a summer and autumn destination.”

The autumn season in Finland coincides with the Chinese Independence Day in early October. That’s a national holiday week and many people choose to travel abroad.

Recent years have witnessed a change in Chinese tourists coming to the Nordic countries. In addition to traditional tourist groups, Chinese millennials – global citizens born between 1981 and 1996, eager to try out everything new – are now in search of their own, unique experiences, and not just in Finland, but elsewhere, too.

“Chinese tourists are not very familiar with Finland yet. However, we can expect the number of Chinese tourists in Finland to triple in the future. Currently, 8.7 per cent of the Chinese population has a passport. By 2030, this number is expected to grow to 25 per cent.”

At the moment, many Chinese tourists choose Helsinki, the country's capital, as their destination. Photo of Helsinki Cathedral by Niko Soveri/Visit Finland.

In order to promote tourism, there is a need for a deeper understanding of how Finland is seen in China. According to Guo, Chinese tourists would welcome longer opening hours for shops and many sightseeing spots. Moreover, many Chinese tourists find the Finnish cuisine bland and expensive.

“Chinese tourists love grilled salmon! The Old Market Hall in Helsinki is also a place they recommend to others.”

Text Sari Eskelinen Photos Lapland Material Bank and Niko Soveri/Visit Finland